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BHP will extend its partnership at the University of Newcastle with a further $10 million in funding to support ongoing research into decarbonising steelmaking, potentially reducing the need for coking coal.

The expanded research program will focus on low-carbon iron and steelmaking using BHP’s iron ore and metallurgical coal, including conventional blast furnace ironmaking with the addition of hydrogen, and emerging alternative low-carbon ironmaking technologies.

The collaboration with the University’s Centre for Ironmaking Materials Research (CIMR) will last five years and help train the next generation of PhD researchers and engineers.

BHP vice president of iron ore sales and marketing Dr Rod Dukino said the type of research undertaken by the Newcastle Institute for Energy and Resources (NIER) was vital to global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“Research and innovation have a critical role to play in accelerating the industry’s transition to a low carbon future,” Dukino said.

“The expanded research program with the University of Newcastle complements BHP’s existing partnerships with our key steelmaking customers in China, Japan and South Korea.

“Recognising the particular challenge of a net-zero pathway for this hard-to-abate sector, we are continuing to partner with customers and others in the steel value chain to seek to accelerate the transition to carbon-neutral steelmaking.”

The CIMR was one of the first centres created at NIER, opening in 2010 to undertake ironmaking research supporting the use of BHP’s iron ore and metallurgical coal in the conventional steelmaking process.

BHP has a long history with the University of Newcastle dating back to the commencement of collaborative iron and steel research in 1957.

University of Newcastle vice-chancellor Professor Alex Zelinsky said the ongoing work of NIER would help drive the type of home-grown innovation needed for the world to decarbonise.

“Through our strategic plan, which was shaped by our students, staff and our communities, we are committed to supporting the innovation required to bring the world closer to a sustainable future with solutions for the use of natural resources and the development of new energy technologies,” Zelinsky said.

“This continued partnership with BHP is a clear example of the University’s commitment to driving technological advancement through industry-engaged research, and we are honoured to continue with BHP’s legacy of innovation at our dedicated NIER precinct.”

BHP’s US$400 million ($565 million) Climate Investment Program will provide funding for the collaboration.